I’ve heard more than one Art Buyer and Photo Editor comment that if they see another iPad portfolio they’re going to scream. Of course, for photographers the allure of a $500 portfolio is too much to resist, so it’s good to keep tabs on this as it surely evolves. I firmly believe the iPad makes a great supplement to the traditional portfolio and as more photographers add motion, it becomes essential for showing that work. And as a way to show depth or recent material that can impact a hiring decision what a money saver this will be. I don’t think we will find many photographers that don’t have one handy on set, at lunch, at an event and even walking down the street; loaded with all kinds of portfolios of their latest work.
The Photoshelter Blog has a post where 3 photographer talk about how they’ve incorporated the iPad into their portfolio presentation. I liked Darren Carroll’s solution of incorporating it into custom made Brewer-Cantelmo books containing high impact prints. The other two photographers, Steve Boyle and Shawn Corrigan have cool iPad only portfolios that are worth checking out as well.
Things don’t replace things; they just splinter. I can’t tell you how exhausting it is to keep hearing pundits say that some product is the “iPhone killer” or the “Kindle killer.” Listen, dudes: the history of consumer tech is branching, not replacing.
TV was supposed to kill radio. The DVD was supposed to kill the Cineplex. Instant coffee was supposed to replace fresh-brewed.
But here’s the thing: it never happens. You want to know what the future holds? O.K., here you go: there will be both iPhones and Android phones. There will be both satellite radio and AM/FM. There will be both printed books and e-books. Things don’t replace things; they just add on.
Before I became a picture editor, I assumed that “good photographers” took “good pictures” because they had a special eye. What I found was that good photographers take good pictures because they take great pains to have good subjects in front of their cameras. Reflect a moment on what cameras do, and this makes sense. Good photographers anticipate their pictures. What good picture editors do is help them.
Jonathan Blaustein reports on a visit to the Chelsea art galleries during his trip to NYC.
Raise your hand if you feel comfortable going to art galleries in New York? Ok, how many of you is that? I don’t know about you, but I love the experience of engaging with art. Photographs, films, paintings, sculptures, videos, music, these are the ultimate forms of encoded information. Art communicates meaning, and we are meaning craving creatures. So I love to look at art. It’s how our history is recorded.
But I don’t love the experience of looking at art in most commercial galleries, and I know many, many people who agree with me. Why is it that such primal human desire has been co-opted by such an alienating system? I mean, the crusty pretentious person at the front desk is a cliché for a reason. All the spaces are more or less the same, no real variation on the experience. Big white space, uncomfortable silence, gallery workers who ignore you, or scowl, or give you a condescending little smile. Could this happen in any other capitalist industry? (I suppose you’ll tell me in the comment section…maybe the Bentley dealership?)
Anyway, I do wonder why such a humanistic enterprise as art making got into bed with such an elitist, de-humanizing business partner. Oh wait, no I don’t. Galleries represent the allure of a connection to money. Dealers are the middlemen between starving artists and wealthy patrons. And they offer wall space as well, which so many artists need.
Regardless, I went to Chelsea when I was in New York earlier this month with the intention of checking the pulse of the Neighborhood. I was accompanied by my colleague and friend Elizabeth Fleming, whose many witty bon mots were predominantly off the record. Unfortunately, we chose a day when many spaces were turning over shows, so we didn’t get a chance to see quite as many exhibits as we would have liked. But given that it was my last afternoon in the city, I probably couldn’t have handled much more anyway.
We began on a construction-laden part of 28th Street, West of 10th. I’m sure many people outside the art world would be surprised to know that there is anything that far West. Elizabeth and I met up outside the joint space for Foley Gallery and Sasha Wolf Gallery. The two dealers joined forces to share a rent for their galleries, but also formed an interesting multi-use venture called Exhibition Lab. Ms. Wolf was kind enough to chat us up about the Lab, which combines an photo/art curiculum with critiquing classes and lectures. Sounds like a good resource for the NYC photo community.
Foley Gallery was showing the work of Bart Michiels, a Belgian artist working with the landscape. The large scale color photos were bleak, wintry scenes of an empty forest and a field type place. There were burnt things here and there, and the overall sensibility tended towards the nihilistic. The project, which referenced “the Valley of the Shadow of Death”, was very reminiscent of Elger Esser. Very. Given all the great work out in the world right now, I admit I was a bit curious as to why Mr. Foley chose to show this. Ms. Wolf was showing black and white, documentary images by Paul McDonough taken in New York in the 70’s. (Which were subsequently published on the NY Times LENS blog.) The photographs shared a lot of stylistic and humor conventions with Garry Winogrand, but they did a great job of evoking Time and Place. And as a child of Jersey from the 70’s, it was a fun temporal space to revisit.
From there, Elizabeth and I peeked into Aperture, as it was in the same building. Call me crazy, which many people probably will, but I didn’t connect to the Paul Strand images from Mexico. A little to banal for my liking. But I’m sure I’m in the minority on this one. We also saw some Jock Sturges photos of nude, sexualized tween girls, literally tucked into an alcove, partially hidden from sight. Elizabeth is the mother of two young girls, and I have a young son. We both agreed that even in a world of moral relativity, these images transgressed some basic taboo, and were little more than criminality masquerading as art.
We exited the building on 27th Street, and cruised through the Robert Mann gallery on 11th Avenue on our way to 26th. Again, it was vintage, beautiful, black and white photography, and not particularly original. I’m a fan of the gallery’s program, and believe they’ve put on many, many important shows over the years. But this wasn’t one of them.
So on to 26th Street, where we stopped into the Andrea Meislin Gallery to see the work of Michal Chelbin. Both Elizabeth and I had seen her earlier work, and were impressed by here odd but not off-putting sensibility. Here, Ms. Chelbin was showing photographs of tween wrestlers from Russia and the Ukraine. The prints were fairly large, color, and square. They were c-prints, which we learned by spying the thin black negative border in each image. Frankly, it was distracting. As was the fact that Ms. Chelbin did not spot tone her prints properly. The dust specks drew Elizabeth’s on-the-record-ire, as she pointed out that any professional who wants to charge high prices ought to know better. Certainly, in a Photoshop world, it reminded me how easy it is to make it right in the computer.
The photographs were entirely of boys, save one. The subject matter brought Collier Schorr to mind, as she’s worked with similar ideas. Wrong as this will sound, I noticed that the boys “packages” were rather prominent in their singlets, and hard to ignore. Having seen Sturges’ work just minutes earlier, it wasn’t hard to make the comparison. Here, a female photographer was sexualizing male children, but of course keeping the clothes on. It made me uncomfortable, as I’m sure it was meant to. But I did wonder why she felt compelled to stare.
From there, we cruised to 25th Street, but had little luck. Yossi Milo and Clampart were both closed for installation, so we had to move on to 24th Street. Gagosian was closed, soon to show Anselm Kiefer’s work. (On view now…) He’s a favorite of mine, so I was a bit disappointed. I mean, any German who can make great, subtle, profound art, not propaganda, out of the Holocaust is a giant in my book.
But my disappointment proved fleeting. Right next door, Mary Boone Gallery gave me an immediate reminder of when and why galleries can be relevant. Unlike photography, which is reproducible and shows well on the web, painting, sculpture, film and their hybrid, installation, need room to breathe. And high production costs can necessitate both a well funded collector base, and big rent for a warehouse space. But I digress…
Ms. Boone was showing “Squeeze,” the work of an artist I didn’t know, Mika Rottenberg. As great and perplexing as this exhibit was, allow me to take you through our experiences step by step. You walk through the alcove into the main gallery. It’s huge. In front of you is a self contained room/sculpture in the middle of the space. It has an window-type air conditioner sticking out the back, with a plant on top. As you walk around towards the opening, you see one sheet of 8.5″x11″ paper taped to the wall on your left, but you pay it no mind. There’s a big photograph of a stewardess type lady on the wall, holding some garbagy-god-knows-what, but you keep going because the room has an opening, which is kind of like a tunnel. The ceiling is made of cheap, dirty, industrial ceiling tile that looks like it was taken from some generic, schlubby New York office in Murray Hill that’s been there since 1941.
The hallway led to a video installation room. And I rarely have the patience for video art in such circumstances. Almost never. So often it’s esoteric and obnoxious. But not this time. Immediately, Elizabeth and I were sucked into this strange, loud, colorful and surreal world. There were people, somewhere far away from New York, cutting into trees in a misty forest. They appeared to be South Asian. The trees released liquid into drip spouts, which we realized was rubber. The video had jumpcuts to spare, but slowly we pieced together that there was a production process going on, with the rubber being turned into some product. But it was an assembly line as imagined by Terry Gilliam, crazy and nonsensical, with mouths spitting liquid through open wooden holes, and naked moist butts showing up occasionally as well.
We took a breather from the video as people streamed into the room, and after agreeing that it was totally awesome, we went back in to watch some more. In all my years looking at art, I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. On return viewing, we pieced together that there was some sort of a trash cube sculpture being fashioned out of the process. After we left the video house, we again saw the large photograph on the wall. It was clear that the woman in the photo was holding the aforementioned cube, which appeared to lock some refuse in rubber and maybe resin. She was smiling. I was even more curious.
From there, the obvious path was to go look at the piece of paper taped to the wall. So we did. It was a bill from a storage company. On the inventory list, we saw the components of the cube, deconstructed. The bill stated that the item would be kept in storage at this facility: in perpetuity. FOREVER. Strange.
So as we began to piece things together, the artist made a video about the production of an object that seemed to contain the waste of consumer culture, and required the extraction of natural resources from the Third World. Said object was then photographed, and locked away from society forever. WOW. Talk about embedding ideas in objects. Not only that, but the piece-it-together-yourself nature of the exhibit forced us to think, and engaged us in a participatory way, thereby referencing ubiquitous Cyberspace.
I had the gumption to approach the bespoke suited man behind the imposing desk, who handed me a price list. Edition of six. What? I asked him about it, and he said that the photo and dvd were editioned, but the cube was too. I mentioned that it seemed that the sculpture was locked away forever, and he concurred. The artist sold a proportional share of an object that people could never possess. Sound familiar? Complex financial instruments, anyone? Brilliant.
Finally, we left the gallery, after 15 minutes or so. What a trip. That’s what galleries can offer, the chance to open a door to a unique experience. To show art that enlightens, and bring the new to a jaded audience. So while the photography galleries left me flat all day, Mary Boone did not.
We finished our day on 24th Street, looking at the Michael Wolf show at Silverstein, and Abelardo Morrell at Wolkowitz. It was hard to get juiced up after my mind was blown, but I gave it a solid effort. Mr. Wolf was showing three interrelated bodies of work, all of which reference surveillance and the lack of privacy in public space. I’d seen his city-scape images on the Internet before, but here the large prints taken of office buildings from office buildings were more poignant than on a computer screen. Scale really helped. Bigger was better.
But in another room, Mr. Wolf’s images of Japanese subway goers crushed up against the train window, taken from the platform, had the opposite effect. They were candid, visceral, and yet slightly noble. They were small prints, and the size communicated an immediacy. They were, without a doubt, the best prints I saw all day. Across the room, there was one large print from the same project, and I felt the magic was lost. Bigger was not better. (I noticed the same phenomenon with Sugimoto’s “Architecture” series at Sonnabend several years ago.) Mr. Wolf’s final group of pictures were shot from Google Street View, and were not that interesting. Just because a phenomenon is important to culture, that doesn’t mean that art about said phenomenon is important. The photos were kind of boring.
So on we went to finish the day with Abelardo Morrell’s large scale, color camera obscura photographs. They were very beautiful, taken in New York and Italy. Some appeared to be made on gravel streets, which were kind of strange. But mostly they showed Mr. Morrell’s now famous process of bringing images of light inside spaces. They were well crafted, lovely to look at. But they did not engage my mind in a serious way.
So Eastward we headed, out of the Gallery Ghetto. We went not three steps when I looked down and saw the most interesting broken sidewalk, strewn-refuse street scene. I looked around to see if there was any signage about, because it looked as much like an art installation as what it really was; some garbage on the street. I know that certain galleries in the past have transformed their spaces in such ways, for real. And I’d seen a Jeff Wall photograph at the Metropolitan Museum earlier in the day that was a döppelganger for what was right in front of me. But Elizabeth and I laughed, and I decided to coin the idea as a new game. Garbage, or art installation? Try it next time you’re in the Neighborhood.
Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.
The other day I received my second invitation to participate in AtEdge. I’m really flattered, but the price tag of almost $8K is a bit steep for me. The photography industry is very competitive and it’s about getting your images out there and seen. What are the best options for promoting your work and getting it seen? Resource guides, Workbook, Blackbook. Premium websites such as Photoserve, Dripbook. Direct mail, email blast (I’ve spoken to AD’s and they say they receive 50-100 emails a day and have stopped looking at them). Entering contests… All these services have pro’s and con’s, but they all cost. Seems if you want to take your photography career up to the next level, you have to pay to play. How do you get the most bang for the buck? Where do creatives look for photographers?
ART PRODUCER 1:
It’s not an event, it’s a process.
Marketing yourself as a photographer is no different than any other advertiser promoting their product. There are many “channels” for doing this, including conventional media like print, to newer media like email blasts and social media. As you mention, the idea is to get your work seen. Because there are as many different ways that people prefer to look at work as there are ways to show it, it’s necessary to do a little of everything. Just like advertisers do.
How to get the biggest bang for your buck? Do your homework!!
Taking a shotgun approach of blasting out promos to anyone and everyone can be quite expensive. With a little sweat equity, you can reduce the cost while putting out a more effective marketing campaign. So, presuming that your portfolio/website are ready to be seen in public, here’s a simplistic overview:
Determine WHO you want to work with/market to and what kind of work you want to do. Annual reports? Event photography? The agency for L’Oreal hair color? Use resources such as Workbook and Agency Compile (much of it for free!) to research accounts you’d like to work on and who does the work. Create a written contact list or use a list service to pull one for you.
Develop a marketing plan which includes promoting in a variety of media in a way that is relevant to your target market. For example, if you want to work in healthcare, don’t include images of cars in your promotions. Don’t edit your list, just chart out all the possibilities and throw in a timetable. The editing will come as you determine how much time and how many resources you have available to you. Include promotions that are reminders (postcards, emails) and also longer term promotions such as “keeper” pieces that are more substantial, like printed books or “stuff.” Contests are actually the cheapest way to get maximum exposure. If you had to pay for your own promotions with the same reach as an award show, it would be in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.
Determine a budget. Based on your short list, determine how much you have to spend. $50? Then you may have only enough to send out a few special promos to a few key people. $500? then you can afford either repeat promotions or a more special promotion to a few more people, plus a couple of contests.
Stick with it! It will take about 2 years to make an impact. You may luck out and get work sooner, but it’s hard to leave a lasting impression in less time than that. If you let up during that time and cease marketing, the clock starts over. If you’re getting zero response in the first 6 months, you may want to consider investing in a reputable consultant to evaluate your marketing tools (portfolio/website/promotions) to give you an honest opinion.
ART PRODUCER 2:
It’s quite a commitment, you have to do your research and find out what people prefer and which markets are the best fit. You have to look into the accounts at each agency, so you’re sure to know who’s doing what. Work with someone to edit your work in your book and website. Presentation is key.
In addition to promos, do agency visits/showings. As much as it sucks to feel like you have to provide food at the showings to get people to show, it works. And, don’t forget to provide leave behinds, that way they’ll have something to remember you by.
Finally, do award shows/contests. Creatives still use them as a reference and it’s hell of a lot cheaper than paying $8000 to get lost in the shuffle.
Many clients swear by their AtEdge ads work for them and other’s swear by Photoserve and even their ASMP findaphotographer.org list – while other’s focus solely on their email and direct mail marketing. We believe that you have to do your research first and see what options you have. Figure out your target market, your budget and do an equation that works for you (we prefer you at least start with 3 approaches – so that not all your eggs are in one basket). It doesn’t happen overnight, so find a plan you can build and grow over a couple of years – but it should be consistent and strong.
Call To Action:
Target market? Budget? Calculate!
Do you know the saying ‘you are what you eat’? Here it is the same thing: ‘you are what you see’. I mean the mental outlook. As I said before people in villages have simple values and their hopes are to have a good family, a husband who won’t drink, to earn enough money, to have children, to bring up them well and so on.
The advice I like to give to young artists, or really anybody, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work.
All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens.
I have been in a creative slump these past couple of weeks so I have turned to my fellow artists and photographers for inspiration. The goal for me is to identify with an artist, not to compare myself. Telling myself this one phrase has always helped me look at someone’s work I love and feel motivated instead of jealous.
via Less Is More
Treesaver, a startup founded by Roger Black and Filipe Fortes, is a platform for combining text and pictures in a layout that scales to fit any size screen. I was pretty excited about it when their teaser video came out several months ago and here’s the first story using the technology: http://www.publicintegrity.org/treesaver/tuna
It seems very workmanlike. Not sure why they didn’t create something super glossy to demo the features of this platform, but maybe there are serious limitations that prevent real design to occur (effing algorithms…). One thing I’ve never understood is why photographs get smaller online. When space is not an issue, most of the photography (if it’s good) should fill the page. Using photography to decorate a page is a waste of time, money and effort. Nice try.
By Jess Dudley, Wonderful Machine Producer
One of our still-life photographers was approached recently by a major brand to quote on a series of product photographs to promote a low-cost line of glassware that they sell through a big-box store. The client needed pictures showing several variations of each of the bowls, plates, and cups so that they’d have different options for use on packaging, point of purchase displays, and on their e-commerce site. They wanted everything shot on white background. Their in-house designers would process the raw files and handle the silhouetting and any retouching. The client would plan to bring a hard drive with them and simply take all the raw files with them at the conclusion of the shoot.
The creative challenge was to make simple bowls and cups look interesting on their own. The technical challenge was to light clear shiny objects and have them show up on a white background. After discussing the project with the photographer, she told me she could comfortably handle 3-4 items/day. So I would need to plan on a four-day shoot.
We’re normally inclined to quote creative fees by the picture rather than by the day. That tends to align the interests of the photographer with those of the client. If a photographer is charging by the day, her incentive is to run long and the client’s incentive is to finish early. If the photographer charges by the picture, everyone is going to be incentivized to work as efficiently as possible. There are exceptions to this rule, however. In cases where the client (or the client’s client) is in control of the shooting schedule (like on a corporate project where the photographer might be at the mercy of the subject’s or facilities’ availability at any given moment).
This project, however, is the type of shoot that a lot of clients have a need for, and that photographers customarily charge by the day for. Rather than upsetting that apple cart, I thought it best to go with the flow and quote the photography by the day. I’ve found that product photographers can command anywhere from 3000.00-5000.00/day for this type of work, with this licensing for a national brand. Whether I quote the high end or the low end is going to depend on how prominent the brand is, the complexity of the pictures, how prominent the photographer is, how busy he is, and the exact licensing. The number of shoot days and the regularity of the work is a factor as well. If a one-day shoot suddenly becomes a five-day shoot, I would probably discount the additional days.
Location of the photographer and the client can also factor in. If the client (even a big one) is in a smaller market and you’re competing with other photographers in that small market, you might not be able to charge as much as for a similar project taking place in a bigger market. In this case, the client and the photographer were in a big market, and I felt that all of the other factors together pointed to about the mid-point of the range, so I quoted 4000.00/day. The client specified the exact usage they needed, which I quoted on the estimate (below).
I chose to include a digital tech as well as a regular photo assistant for this project. For bigger sets, I would want to have at least two assistants, but for table-top, one was enough. I’m also finding that most assistants now have most of the skills of a digital tech, so the personnel (and the fees they charge) are starting to become interchangeable. (Of course, digital techs with extensive software and hardware knowledge, or those who bring their own computers or cameras, will always be able to charge a premium.)
Since there was so little pre-production necessary (just arranging the catering and the assistants), it wasn’t worth breaking that out as a separate line item. And while some shoots might require a pre-light day, this one was simple enough that I couldn’t justify breaking that out either.
Sometimes product photographers bundle the studio and equipment charges into their creative fees. Other times it makes sense to show separate line items. (Either way, it has very little to do with whether the photographer has “his own” space or “his own” gear. Some photographers naively charge clients based on the cost to them rather than the value that they’re bringing to their client. Equipment and studios are expensive whether you rent them by the day, by the month, or own them outright.) There are pluses and minuses to either approach. Bundling the charge might make your creative fee seem fat. Separating those expenses out might make it seem like you’re nickel-and-diming. Generally, I do whatever I think is customary for a given situation. Here, I chose to separate it out.
For catering, we’ll normally do a light breakfast (muffins, bagels, fruit salad, juice, water, coffee) and a casual lunch (sandwiches, salads, chips, cookies, brownies, water, soda, coffee). For productions with more than 10 people, or if you’re shooting more than a few days in a row, it starts to make sense to go a step further. We’ve sometimes gone as far as offering made-to-order omelets, pancakes and oatmeal for breakfast, lasagna and other hot options in addition to sandwiches for lunch, and snacks to keep people going through the afternoon. For people (clients especially) who spend a lot of time on shoots like this, it’s nice not getting stuck with an Italian hoagie every day.
Naturally, the client provided the product. But they also provided the stylist, which we were sure to note in the estimate. The shoot took place in the photographer’s own studio so travel and certificates of insurance were unnecessary.
The client liked the estimate and signed off on it, and the shoot went as expected. (Not all estimates go through as easily as this one did. I promise to get into negotiating next time!) One thing you might ask is, “what does the photographer charge if the shoot takes five days to complete, or if it only takes three?” Good question. Strictly speaking, we’ve quoted this as an estimate rather than a bid. With an estimate, the final cost will vary depending on actual conditions. With a bid, you’re saying that the cost is fixed for the result you’re delivering. However, in this case since everything about the shoot is going to be either predictable or within the photographer’s control, there would have to be very unusual circumstances to justify billing for additional shoot days. But at the same time, most clients would expect you to only charge them for the three days if that’s all it took. This “heads I win, tails you lose” effect is one more reason I prefer to bill by the picture rather than by the day.
If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing one of your projects, you can reach Jess at email@example.com
“Fashion photography is too often thought of as superficial and unworthy of serious consideration, despite its imaginative uses of narrative, its cultural relevance and the profound influence it has had on ‘fine art’ photography for the past 30 years. Fashion photography is a burgeoning field internationally and we’re excited to take the lead in offering a graduate program specifically devoted to the medium.”
Jonathan Blaustein reports on a visit to several blockbuster photo exhibits during his trip to NYC.
I went to see Gregory Crewdson’s show on a Friday, the day before it closed at the Gagosian Gallery on Madison Avenue. It was an imposing, New York City-gray-type-building, with an express elevator to the 6th Floor gallery. The aura of money and power was intimidating, and I couldn’t help smacking myself with the front door in full view of the slinky gallerina sitting at the front desk. Suave, I was not.
For those of you who don’t know, Mr. Crewdson is one of the foremost art-star photographers on the planet, and a professor at Yale as well. He rose to acclaim a while back for innovating the cinematic, labor-intensive-faux-reality picture style, alongside Jeff Wall and Philip-Lorca diCorcia. His most famous images are large scale, well lit moments observing people’s introspective silence, or overturned buses in the pavement, or women on the front lawn at night. The images were revolutionary, as he hired film crews, set up huge lights and directed the action to get photographs that appear “real,” but are not. The movement of which he was a part shattered the expectation of veracity in photography, and then buried the notion of “truth,” and then spit on the grave.
The new show, called “Sanctuary, ” was a departure. The photographs are more traditionally sized black and white inkjet prints. They are somewhat flat, and and lack the snap of a good gelatin silver print. But I suspect that’s intentional. The series functions as a narrative, shot on location at Cinecittá Studios in Rome, the famous Mussolini-built film lot where Fellini worked back in the day. (And Scorcese shot the flawed but greuesome “Gangs of New York” there as well. Yes, Bill the Butcher still gives me the heebiegeebies…)
Anyway, I thought it was a pretty smart move to go from cinematic photographs to photographs in a cinematic parallel universe. And that’s where this project really stands out: on the symbolic level. The show begins in a small room with two photographs in it. One on the outside of the fence, looking at the wall that delineates the studio from the outside world. The next faces the security gate, at night, a lone woman working in the guard booth. She’s the only human in the series, and a nod to Crewdson’s previous imagery.
The rest of the images navigate a tour around the abandoned studio lot. The photographs are bleak, with a beautiful decrepitude. Here a lone tree, there a Roman arch, here a puddle of water, there a solitary bedsheet on the cobblestones. There is an undeniable post-apocalyptic sensibility, and it builds as one moves from picture to picture. Occasionally, we can see a block of utilitarian apartment buildings outside the walls, but aside from one image with some Italian text, there is no specific sense of place outside the Roman ruins. And plenty of scaffolding has been left to rot. References to Lewis Baltz, Thomas Struth and the Bechers are pretty evident, but not heavy-handed. Everyone loves a good shout out.
The photographs are quiet, lonely, sad, graceful, and specifically composed. The craftsmanship is evident, which is why the subtle prints hint at aging, lending meaning to the work. (And I did learn a bit about his process, by good fortune. A Yale photography professor was lecturing in the gallery alongside one of her graduate students. Apparently, the digital images are a composite of photos shot at different focal distances to create maximum sharpness and image clarity.)
The show ends with a path to the exit gate. We approach this little world, we circumnavigate, then we leave. Mr. Crewdson has prepared a journey for his viewers, with symbols to spare. I was moved. To be fair, a few days later a smart photographer friend asked whether I’d have taken the time to delve into the work if it had been done by an “unfamous” artist. Would I have had the patience to parse the meaning? Good question. If I’d seen it in some random gallery in Chelsea, I probably would have done a glance and go. But that’s not how we engage with art. Context is important. So in the temple of Gagosian, with knowledge of Mr. Crewdson’s previous work, he had earned my patience.
From there, I walked South two blocks to the Whitney to see Lee Friedlander’s “America by Car.” At least three people went out of their way to say “Don’t miss it,” so my expectations were pretty high. I got there less than an hour before the pay-what-you-want program kicked off, but decided to pony up the cash so that I wouldn’t be crushed by the onslaught of bargain-hunting art patrons. I knew I had to report back to you, the APE audience, and thought that I owed it to you to get a clear look at the work, instead of having to bob and weave all night.
The show is great. Consider it reviewed. Now can someone get me a cup of coffee? Just kidding. But it is superb; the equivalent of getting a big bowl of wisdom soup from a master at the tail end of his artistic journey. I’m not saying Mr. Friedlander is going to kick it any day now, but he’s coming from a place of age and experience, and it shows. Cindy Sherman, he’s not.
The exhibition contains 192 square photographs; a succession of vertical diptychs. Each image in the pair was taken in a different part of the US, though there were a few from Canada thrown in for who-knows-why. My natural inclination was to compare and contrast each image, then move down the line. Two photos. Two Americas. (Sorry, John Edwards.) Red State or Blue. Republican or Democrat. Urban or Rural. This or that.
That’s how we process information when it’s presented as such. We compare and contrast. If we’re given a line, we follow it. But after 25 or so diptychs, my head began to hurt. And then I looked down the room and into the next, and thought: I’ll never make it. No one was meant to play this game 96 times. That’s not what he wants. It’s not what he’s trying to say.
So then, I stepped back. I began to look at the exhibition in it’s entirety. Each photo was shot from inside a car, some with flash, and the shapes of the windowpanes and the dash boards were interesting as visual structure, for sure. They create a uniformity of language that delivers the message well. But the message was enticing to me. America. By car. One country, not two. Mr. Friedlander did an admirable job of collecting symbols of the once-and-perhaps-again-great nation of ours. Churches and Bars, Horses and Semi-Trucks, Factories and Gas Stations, Snowmen and Skyscrapers…
I started to look at the entire vision, and it began to make sense. A few urban enclaves aside, America is a nation defined by the car. (Just ask Robert Frank.) It’s a big place, and beyond diverse. But Mr. Friedlander was presenting one vision, not two. He was profiling one country, with his requisite humor and penchant for chaotic compositions. I came away inspired. It’s easy to divide and deliniate, and of course easier to decontruct than construct. As a viewer, albiet one intent on finding something interesting to say, I felt like this was an art show wrapped around a philosophical statement. A photo exhibit that presaged Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity.” A group of new pictures that belied a well-worn attitude: Enough already. Get over it. We’re one country, whether we like it or not, so let’s find some common ground, in this case a perfect encapsulation of an American symbology, and move along. Lee Friedlander channeling Rodney King.
By Tuesday, six days into my couch surf, I was done and ready to go home. I rewarded myself by spending the day looking at art. Yes, I had to take notes to write this piece, but all that was required was to look and think. And while some might disagree, I think the best thing about New York is the vast array of brilliant, epic and historically important things to see. Especially art.
I headed to the Metropolitan Museum, which is my favorite building in the world. I had two and a half hours, which forces one to be targeted and tactical. After hitting up the Chinese wing, which always inspires, I went to see the John Baldessari retrospective. My good friend Scott B. Davis, a photographer from San Diego, saw the show at LACMA earlier this year and told me it was the best thing he’d seen in years. Scott is not given to hyperbole, unlike, say, me, so I took him seriously. And I made sure to allow a good 45 minutes, which was not enough. But one can’t have everything.
I’d seen a few original pieces by the artist in LA, and photos in books through the years. I came into the show more aware of his reputation than his brilliance. I left feeling that Mr. Baldessari was as good as Andy Warhol. There. I said it. Now Andy’s ghost will smite me where I sit.
The best I can tell you about this exhibition, beyond “Go See It,” is that Mr. Baldessari figured out how to incorporate his curiosity, humor, irreverance, and intelligence into a broad and surprisingly relevant mega-collection of great work, across a spectrum of media. Albert Brooks once said that they don’t have a special line at the bank for being ahead of your time. I doubt Mr. Baldessari is hurting, but he definitely got there before everybody else.
Encoding, interactive gaming, implied/manipulated narrative, identity, the myth of California, the culture of beauty and retouching, so many 21st Century ideas seemed embedded in work that was made in the 60’s and 70’s. The pictures were direct, but funny. Original. Profound and silly, which is an almost impossible concept to imagine, much less pull off. I’m reticent to describe some of the pieces, as they just have to be seen. (The artist singing a Sol LeWitt art manifesto? Yeah, it’s that funny.)
Art is meant to be seen. Though it’s a JPG world and we’re just living in it, sometimes that’s not enough. Sometimes, you’ve got to get off the couch, or step away from the Crackberry, find half a day, and go feed your brain. I’m intentionally lacking specificity about the Baldessari show for this reason. It’s genius: the real deal. But I can’t narrate it for you. It’s not that kind of art experience. It’s not meant to be compressed by an algorithm. Just go see for yourself.
In rejecting H-M’s motion to dismiss the Wood claim, the judge wrote: “The gist of Lankiewicz’s deposition testimony, in short, is that under his understanding of industry standards, a copyright license that specifies a print run of 40,000 copies simply does not limit publishers, which could reproduce over a million copies of the copyrighted work without seeking further permission from, or paying additional fees to, the copyright holder.”
The judge wrote off Lankiewicz’s testimony as “facially implausible and self-serving claims” and “perhaps even nonsense” on his way to ruling that no jury could dispute the meaning of a license limit of 40,000 copies.
I received an email from Photographer/Director Jason Mitchell of Purebred Photo challenging me on a assumption I made in a question to Clint Clemens about how photographers are simply shooting motion cheaper than traditional motion crews can. He was correct to challenge me on that, because it was simply a hunch I had without anything backing it up. I love hearing from people in the field and found his comments so interesting I asked him to expand on them with some examples for everyone to see. Here is Jason’s response:
I think it’s important to talk about the cost of motion production and the idea that photographers can somehow do it cheaper. I think that this is a misconception born out of the often smaller production costs of shooting stills as compared with a motion campaign, and sprinkled with the cost of acquiring on dSRLs vs. high-end motion cameras. If in reality the cost reduction is due to a smaller crew count, less expensive cameras, cheap lights and reduced overhead, then most motion production companies are already doing that. However, they do not talk it up as they prefer to focus on the larger jobs that pay better, have a properly skilled crew, and often better results. It boils down to the level of quality and control you can achieve when you are approaching a project as a solo vs. cooperative effort, the difference is in the details.
I bring this up because in your question you feel quite certain that photographers can do it cheaper. I feel I must put it back to you that everyone can do it cheaper (and already have been). But what motion teams are good at also incorporates another element (other than the obvious editing and sound as Mr. Clemens addresses): the evolution of a story. The deeper you dig into the motion world, the more you will come back with the idea that the story is king.
The barrier to entry in motion production for photographers is not all that high. The simple answer is to hire the same people who have been doing motion work for decades. It is up to the photographer to incorporate this collaborative effort, decide which elements to focus on and which to delegate. And their approach may be more novel as they are coming with fresh eyes and fewer presuppositions on what the ‘requirements’ are for solid motion production. But the costs of production relate directly to the ability to support and communicate the narrative.
So, here are two examples that I could offer up to support the rhetoric — where we kept the budget low but strove for higher quality.
Job A: OOH targeting transit in NY, SF and London and Viral still and motion banners for [Redacted] through agency [Redacted].
This one was a bit unusual (as if anything ever isn’t). It started out with only still deliverables but the client couldn’t commit to a date. As the job progressed they added on more desires for the outcome, including motion banners to support an interactive experience in the web browser. The producer was a friend I had worked with and problem solved with before and he had just run into two problems. The client pushed the dates into a conflict with the photographer who had originally bid/secured the job so he was down a photographer. They added motion, which that photographer had no experience with.
When he called and talked about the project, it was a week away. They had booked a studio and talent but needed a new (and new type of) acquisition team. And to boot, they had already settled on a budget for the project of $8300 to cover camera crew, equipment and lighting for a two day shoot — the agency was acting as the production company and handling the hair/make-up fx, prop stylist, talent, studio and post. I was available for the time and had the ability to take both both formats down so I could gladly help him out. But to complicate matters the two clients couldn’t agree if the materials should be high key or low-key to match existing work, so our punch list was growing exponentially.
I wanted to shoot strobes for still to freeze the action and needed hot lights for the motion — I chose HMIs to match daylight of the strobes. I brought on a gaffer and a 1st photo assistant for both days, each familiar with the different lights. Cameras were a Nikon D3x for poster-sized stills and an HVX200 that had plenty of resolution for web banners. I focused the budget on what I would help augment our ability to quickly handle the shoot. On set, I sistered the two (hot and strobe) lighting setups to quickly move between them. In the end, we had more issues with coaxing the talent to stay fresh than we did with the multitude of setups, so we saw overtime on day one.
So a minimal budget equaled a minimal approach — cheaper cameras and small crew. A complexity added by the client resulted in having to focus heavily on utilizing every iota of talent from the crew to make it work.
Job B: 3x 15 second web commercials (virals) for [Redacted] through [Redacted] .
This we bid out from the beginning. After a little back and forth it was clear that they had marked out $25,000 for the project to include production and post on three 15 second web commercials. The agency would be handing talent costs, but otherwise we would be delivering finished spots. The original estimate called for a lot of agency involvement in pre-production in casting and location scouting. In reality they were busy on other projects and simply weighed in online.
To make it meet the budget, we planned for one day of production with three locations. The shots were simple, all ‘oners’ where there was just one shot for the whole spot (a logo and some VO is added in post). We had SAG talent so the reads were all gold and we were able to push through the setups in short order. And we kept the locations close to each other and ended up only moving the trucks once (we shot one exterior outside on the street of the interior location). The crew was robust but minus a couple of the ancillary multiple roles, and I could Direct/DP to keep costs and crew count down. There was a total head count of 21 including 5 agency and 1 client.
I was able to negotiate a couple of price reductions in rate or kit costs with crew members that I had a good relationship and took care of everyone very well on set (great craft, a motor coach to work in and I ordered the larger grip truck). We shot on the Red with a kit 18-50mm lens for versatility in our locations and the ability to reframe the image in post (critical to time and budget concerns). We took advantage of the sun at our first location with shiny boards, a single HMI and LED at the second, and a mixture of lighting for the third location. The day included a lot of time to set up the camera and lighting to do a simple dolly move and allow talent to walk around in the frame. The formula was just right for the size of crew to the scope of the project while allowing time to dial it in on set. The time spent augmenting reality with the lighting and focus on the details made the spots much better than if we had simply run and gunned it.
A modest budget, achievable with less, not full market rate for all matters concerned, better for having more.
So there are two examples of where we kept the budget low but maintained the right kind of quality in the production. Hope this helps illustrate that not every commercial you see is a bajillion dollars. But if you have more time, effort and talent to put on you can address the important details.
5. You need a property release to use a photograph of a house for a commercial use.
No court or state has established a law—either by statute or through court rulings—creating a right to protect or prevent property from being photographed from a public area, or from that photograph being used editorially or commercially. Thus, no legal reason exists for a “property release,” except perhaps when photographing other copyrighted works or trademarks. Note that some stock agencies require a property release for fear of being sued.